Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Human rights defenders call establishment of precinct election commissions not transparent

The establishment of precinct election commissions for Belarus' presidential election was not transparent, human rights defenders told reporters in Minsk on November 5.

Speaking at the news conference, Aleh Hulak, leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, stressed that unlike in the previous elections, this time observers were allowed to attend meetings held by local executive committees to form precinct commissions. He said that some observers had even been invited to attend such meetings.

However, Mr. Hulak said, the meetings were a mere formality used to approve precinct commissions' membership lists that had been drawn up in advance. "It's unknown who drew them up. They were not drawn up in public, which in our opinion is inconsistent with the principle of the electoral process' publicity and openness," he noted.

"In a widespread practice dozens of precinct commissions with a total membership of 1,500 to 2,000 people were formed within 15 to 20 minutes. This means that there was no discussion of the candidacies whatsoever," Mr. Hulak said.

"In some executive committees they didn't even give the names of those proposed for inclusion [into the precinct commission]. There simply was a vote and neither the candidates for membership of the commission nor observers could know who was included," he noted.

Human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich said that opposition figures had been denied inclusion into precinct commissions in Minsk "on grounds that it's hard to work with them, that they write complaints, that they are incapable of working in a team." "This is yet another confirmation of our conclusions of a discriminatory nature of these commissions," he said.